27th Dec2013

Cameron rules out change in bereavement leave law

by TH

David Cameron has dashed the hopes of campaigners hoping to give bereaved parents a legal right to paid time off.

Despite a positive response to a question from Glasgow South MP Tom Harris on the subject, the Prime Minister has now confirmed that the government will not support any change to the relevant legislation.

In a letter to Tom, the Prime Minister said: “I know from personal experience how profoundly a parent is affected by the loss of a child. Although there is no statutory right for bereavement leave, the majority of employers respond to such an event with compassion and understanding, offering their employees the support that they need to take time off and to begin to deal with the consequences of this tragic event.


04th Dec2013

Tom joins the fight against fixed-odds betting machines

by TH

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has joined Westminster colleagues to call for action against the “crack cocaine of gambling” in the High Street.

Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are touch screen electronic gaming machines found in betting shops across the United Kingdom. They host a variety of games, ranging from casino games such as Roulette, Poker and Black Jack, to electronic slot games and virtual racing. Punters can bet up to £100 per spin every 20 seconds on casino games and up to £2 per spin on slot games.  No other gaming machine allows such high speed, high stake play.

The government already has the power to reduce the maximum bet of £100 to £2.00, but has refused to do so.

A study by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2007 concluded that FOBTs should be closely monitored because of the possibility of problem gambling.

“Having met one young person whose early life was nearly destroyed by his problem gambling and addiction to FOBTs, I am convinced the government needs to take urgent action to protect people from this activity,” said Tom.

Click here for more information about the campaign against FOBTs.

09th Oct2013

Standing up for press freedom

by TH

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has criticised his party’s stance on newspaper regulation and called on parliament to reject parliament’s Royal Charter implementing Lord Leveson’s recommendations.

Tom, a former journalist, warned that reasonable though the existing proposals might appear, giving parliament any role whatever in the new system could lead to greater controls in future. This is the original text of the article which appeared in today’s Daily Telegraph and Mirror:

There are, fortunately, very few instances of a financially sound business choosing to close itself down and bring to a premature end the contracts of its 200 employees.

You might expect such an event to be loudly protested by politicians, particularly politicians of the Left, and especially if the owner of the business in question was a hate figure representing everything the Left despises about global capitalism.

You would be wrong, of course. Because when, in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, it was announced that the News of the World was closing its doors, no-one protested. No-one marched. No-one printed stickers defending jobs against the brutality of the Murdoch empire.

These were, after all, (largely) journalists’ jobs. And for most people in the Labour Party, journalists, especially those working for Murdoch and the other press barons, are The Enemy.

Which is why there is such near unanimity in my party in favour of press regulation. Before Lord Leveson presented his conclusions, I spoke to a number of colleagues and tried to share my reservations about what the inquiry might recommend. I was discouraged by the responses of some I would normally consider to be on the sensible wing of the party who airily decreed that we (politicians in general) had been the media’s victims for long enough. The boot was on the other foot. Payback time.


21st Sep2013

Claire honoured for citizenship efforts

by TH

A former pupil at King’s Park Secondary has become the latest recipient of the Tom Harris MP Citizenship Award.

Claire Hunter was nominated by teachers after she helped raise hundreds of pounds to help build the “Glasgow Cares Community Centre” orphanage in Manila by running a car boot sale.

Wendy Dougan, principal teacher for pastoral care at King’s Park, paid tribute to Claire for her efforts: “She really took charge of the fund-raising for the orphanage. She’s incredibly hard-working and responsible.”

“I was very impressed to learn of Claire’s efforts on behalf of children living in the Philippines,” said Tom. “She’s an articulate and conscientious young woman and a worthy recipient of this award.”

The Citizenship Award is sponsored by Tom at various secondary schools in his Glasgow South constituency and is awarded annually to a senior pupil whom teachers consider has contributed most to the principle of active citizenship.

10th Sep2013

Charity’s seven-ton gift to city children

by TH

STANDING GUARD: Soldiers from the local TA regiment with some of the books

Glasgow children are set to receive a massive boost to their libraries, thanks to the efforts of a city-based charity.

Following the recent collapse of a well-known bookstore chain, Glasgow The Caring City, based at Cathcart Old Parish Church, managed to secure SEVEN TONS of brand new books and have transported them from a warehouse in England to Glasgow. They will now be distributed completely free to local schools and nurseries.

“This is a one-off special free offer by the Caring City,” said the Rev. Neil Galbraith, who heads the charity. A special book fayre will take place next Monday and Tuesday (16 and 17 September) at 10.00 am, to which representatives of local schools and nurseries have been invited.

Rev. Galbraith said the fare is part of the “Celebration City” and “Goal” projects, aimed at creating an enduring legacy for the city as host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Local MP Tom Harris, whose staff are based at Cathcart Old Parish Church, welcomed the initiative. He said: “This is a terrific opportunity for local schools to add significantly to their pupils’ reading material. My wholehearted congratulations go to Neil and his team at the Caring City for securing this windfall.”

28th Aug2013

‘Why we need statutory bereavement leave for parents’

by TH

Parents who suffer the loss of a child must be given a legal right to paid leave in order to grieve, a Glasgow MP has said.

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris is to introduce a Bill in the House of Commons next week which would enforce statutory bereavment leave for parents for the first time.

“Most of us can think of nothing more distressing than losing a child,” said Tom. “But few people realise that time off work, when it’s granted, is entirely at the discretion of the employer.

“Few good employers would deny grieving parents time off in such tragic circumstances, but such leave should be a working parent’s right, not to be given according to their employer’s discretion.”

Tom paid tribute to the campaign website “Jack’s Rainbow“, established by Lucy Herd, whose own son died at just 23 months of age. Lucy has also launched a petition to press the government to change bereavement leave law.

He added: “At present, all employees have the right to take immediate ‘time off for dependants’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is a legal right to unpaid leave to cope with family emergencies. However, there is no set limit on how many days can be taken, only a vague definition of ‘a reasonable amount of time’. Each employer will have their own bereavement policy, which is typically just three to five days.

“In response to Lucy’s e-petition calling for statutory bereavement leave, which has attracted almost 22,000 signatures, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that all requests for leave related to bereavement are best left for employers and their employees to decide between themselves.


26th Aug2013

Making it work for single parents

by TH

Glasgow South MP Tom Harris has pledged support for a campaign to boost single parent employment, run by the charity Gingerbread.

Thirty-nine per cent of families in Glasgow South are headed by single parents, many of whom struggle to balance work with caring for their children. With childcare increasingly unaffordable, a lack of school-hours jobs on offer and reduced opportunities for single parents to get training, finding a decent job can become an almost impossible task, with many single parents in work still struggling to make ends meet.

Gingerbread has launched a three-year campaign to Make it work for single parents. It’s calling on the government to support single parents to overcome the barriers they face to work and make a commitment to increasing single parent employment.

Tom said: “Any parent wants to be able to provide for their family, and we should be doing all that we can to help single parents do just that.”

Three out of five single parents in the UK are in work and the vast majority of those who aren’t in work want to be, argues Gingerbread. The charity says that investing in job growth for single parents would reap rewards for families, and public finances, finding that the treasury could make £436 million of savings a year by getting just five per cent more single parents into work.


11th Jul2013

‘Don’t just moan about Ipsa – do something about it!’

by TH

Two MPs listen to the Ipsa announcement on pay

Party leaders and other MPs who are publicly declaring their opposition to MPs getting a pay rise in two years’ time should either put up or shut up, Tom Harris has said.

Speaking on the day that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Agency (Ipsa) announced its plans for MPs’ wages and expenses after the 2015 general election, Tom said the only politically acceptable answer was to abolish Ipsa altogether.

“It’s all very well for party leaders and others to court the praises of the media by saying that they personally won’t accept the £6000 pay rise Ipsa has proposed. And they’re right that it is politically crazy at the moment to announce any significant pay increase.

“So what are they going to do about it?

“If they’re serious about bringing Ipsa to heel, if they’re serious about keeping MPs’ pay down, will they do what needs to be done and return the responsibility for our wages to the Commons? Because if MPs had had to decide on a pay award, it’s inconceivable that in the current economic climate, we would have gone for more than one per cent.